Monday, April 27, 2020

Why Did Judge Marasca Parrot The CSI Effect In The Supreme Court’s Final Report?

Posted by The Machine

Judges Marasca and Bruno

1. This Post In Wider Context

Judge Marasca was the lead judge of a Fifth Chambers panel of five judges. Judge Bruno was the rapporteur and he drafted the report.

On 7 September 2015 they signed off on the final report published a full three months past the mandatory deadline. After the report came out no US or UK media either translated the report or summarized it. Knox and her PR characterised the conclusion as an exoneration. This was a lie.

No US or UK media reported that. 

Italian legal scholars and our own posters have voiced extensive criticisms. One is especially relevant here: that it is illegal for the Supreme Court to displace lower courts by getting into the evidence.  Claimed problems must be referred back down to the lower court - in this case, the 2013-2014 Nencini appeal court which in our view did an extremely good job.

No US or UK media reported that.

Judge Marasca and Judge Bruno were politically appointed judges who had not followed the demanding career path. Neither were “murder judges” and neither had handled a murder case before, and this lack of training and experience shows throughout the very amateurish report.

No US or UK media reported that.

The Fifth Chambers is not the “murder case chambers”, such cases are normally always handled by the First Chambers which had repeatedly visited the case before - for example: (1) in 2008 when Sollecito and Knox wanted to be out of prison and on house arrest; (2) in 2010 in declining Guede’s final appeal; (3) in 2012 in annulling the outcome of the Hellman appeal. 

No US or UK media reported that.

The CSI Effect had zero effect on the Massei trial jury or the Nencini appeal jury because (1) the DNA evidence was strong and backed up by two top-rate national labs; and (2) all the other evidece was strong too. But the CSI Effect was promoted to the maximum to the US and UK publics by the Sollecito and Knox PR and many have been misled.

No US or UK media reported that.

2. Calibrated Take On Significance Of DNA

DNA evidence is a relatively new phenomenon in the long history of criminal law. The first case where DNA evidence was used to convicted someone of murder was in 1988. Colin Pitchfork was given life sentences for the rapes and murders of 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire.

The advantages of DNA evidence

The advantages of DNA evidence are obvious. It helps to convict criminals, exonerate the wrongly accused and identify victims of crime. DNA samples collected from the crime scene and the bodies of victims can be used to accurately identify suspects.

It is current CPS policy to quote a match probability of one in a billion. In other words, there may be another six people on the planet who have an identical DNA profile to the suspect, but the probability that the culprit is someone else is so exceedingly low that it can effectively be ruled out.

DNA evidence conclusively proved that James Hanratty murdered Michael Gregsten 40 years after he was convicted of murder. It also silenced the journalists, politicians, human rights campaigners, lawyers, writers, filmmakers and celebrities who were certain he was innocent and had campaigned on his behalf

The disadvantages of DNA evidence

DNA evidence is only one type of evidence jurors should take into account when considering the evidence against a defendant. TV shows like CSI have led some jurors to having unrealistic expectations of DNA analysis and giving it more weight than other types of evidence. This phenomenon is known as the CSI effect.

Prosecutor Wendy Murphy raised her concerns about the CSI effect in 2005:

“This has been a bit of a problem even before the onset of DNA, and shows like ‘CSI.’ You get jurors who don’t have a lot of brain cells asking questions after the case is over about why there weren’t any fingerprints on the pillow case. Of course, that makes no sense.

“But once you get the influence of ‘CSI,’ what they start to expect is not only a lot of forensic evidence, but that this one missing piece would have told them the truth. That’s just not reality.

“Most murder cases have a little forensic evidence, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story.

“I actually think one of the problems is we’re not screening out these jurors who are way too much under the influence of these pop culture programs. They shouldn’t be allowed to sit in judgment, frankly.”

Beth Carpenter, from the Oregon Crime Lab, says there are expectations well beyond what the reality is.

There is a widespread misconception that DNA is like wet paint. However, DNA is not easy to transfer. Dr Stefanoni testified that the “transfer of DNA must not be taken for granted nor it is easy to happen, and more likely to take place if the original trace is aqueous, not if it is dry”.

3. Addressing Of DNA In The Final Report

It seem Judge Marasca was influenced by the CSI effect or ast least deliberately playing on it.

They claim the lack of biological traces attributable to Knox and Sollecito is proof they weren’t physically involved in Meredith’s murder

Now, a fact of assured relevance in favor of the current appellants, in the sense of excluding their material participation to the homicide, even in the hypothesis of their presence in the house of via della Pergola, lies in the absolute absence of biological traces referable to them (apart from the hook of which we will discuss later) in the room of the homicide or on the victim’s body, where in contrast multiple traces attributable to Guede were found.”

It is incontrovertibly impossible that that in the crime scene (constituted by a room of little dimensions: ml 2,91x3,36, as indicated by the blueprint reproduced at f. 76) no traces would be retrieved referable to the current appellants had they participated in the murder of Kercher.

Contradictory and illogical reasoning

Judge Marasca says there were multiple attackers and he places Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito at the cottage at the time of the murder. There’s no DNA evidence of anyone else in Meredith’s room other than Guede and Sollecito.

If Marasca is saying that Guede had accomplices other than Knox and Sollecito, he’s acknowledging it’s possible to commit murder and leave no DNA evidence - which completely contradicts his claim that Knox and Sollecito were not materially involved in Meredith’s murder because of the lack of credible traces that are attributable to them.

Marasca’s reasoning on this specific issue is contradictory and illogical and many DNA experts e.g. Peter Gill disagree with his belief that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

“Sometimes forensic scientists may try to find meaning in the absence of a DNA profile to prove a negative: e.g., ‘‘Mr X was not in the room because I could not find his DNA.’ This is a specious argument. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” (Peter Gill,  Misleading DNA Evidence: Reasons for Miscarriages of Justice).

The fact the Scientific Police found no DNA samples on Meredith’s neck from the person who strangled her with enough force to leave visible bruises and break her hyoid bone proves it’s possible exert considerable force on someone and still leave no DNA evidence.

There were 43 bruises and wounds on Meredith’s body, but the Scientific Police only found one DNA sample of one of her attackers on her body. It’s self-evident that attackers don’t always leave their DNA on their victims.

Marasca also seems to assume DNA evidence is required to convicted someone of murder. It isn’t a required element in Italy or in any common law jurisdiction.

Forensic investigators didn’t find any DNA samples belonging to Jessica Chapman or Holly Wells at Ian Huntley’s home or any DNA samples belonging to April Jones at Mark Bridger’s home or any DNA samples belonging to Milly Dowler at Levi Bellfield’s home or any DNA samples belonging to Teresa Halbach inside Steven Avery’s bedroom.

It didn’t matter because criminal cases should never hinge on solely DNA evidence. The juries in these respective cases considered all the pieces of evidence wholly - not separately and in isolation from the other pieces of DNA evidence.

There have also been high-profile cases in America where the defendants were convicted of murder without any DNA e.g. Adnan Syed, Damian Elchols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley and Brendan Dassey.

Judge Marasca made the exact same mistake that Judge Chieffi criticised Judge Hellmann in his Supreme Court for i.e. assessing a piece evidence in isolation from the other pieces of evidence.

Marasca should have placed the bra clasp into the wider context of the other pieces of evidence against Sollecito i.e.his multiple false alibis and numerous lies to the police, the bloody footprint matched the precise characteristics of his foot, one of the bare bloody footprints in the hallway revealed by Luminol matched his foot and Meredith’s DNA was found on the blade of his kitchen knife.

The fact that he didn’t defies belief, especially when he specially referred to the elements of strong suspicios with regard to Sollecito.

Judge Marasca also ignored the expert opinions of a number of DNA experts who effectively ruled out the possibilty that the bra clasp was contaminated at the cottage.

Alberto Intini, the head of the Italian police forensic science unit, excluded environmental contamination at the Massei trial because “DNA doesn’t fly.”

Professor Francesca Torricelli testified that it was unlikely the clasp was contaminated because there was a significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on it

Professor Novelli also ruled out environmental contamination. He pointed out in court there’s more likelihood of meteorite striking the courtroom in Perugia than there is of the bra clasp being contaminated by dust at the cottage.

“The hook contaminated by dust? It’s more likely for a meteorite to fall and bring this court down to the ground.”

Professor Balding of London University also said Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith on Meredith’s bra clasp can’t be explained by environmental contamination.

He also said there was a “much greater likelihood“ that the DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp came from Sollecito and that’s the reason why it’s “extremely strong“ evidence against him.

He told Chris Halkides that people walking in and out of the room etc would be unlikely to contaminate the bra clasp.

On the BBC documentary, he said contamination from passers-by isn’t an issue and that he has taken that into account and it’s extremely unlikely.

Replication is not essential

Professor Balding pointed out that replication isn’t essential. However, he also regards the attribution of the Y haplotype to Sollecito as replication:

“But although replication is desirable it is not essential.  (In a sense there already is replication, because each of the 15 loci is an independent test.)”

Professor Novelli also agrees that replication isn’t essential. He testified that he and other DNA experts believe it it quality of the DNA that matters - not the quanity.

This is especially relevant with regard to the knife evidence. Meredith Kercher’s DNA was found on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen. There is no question that the DNA belonged to Meredith.

“In his report submitted on 6 September 2011 to the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia, Prof. Giuseppe Novelli, consultant of the Prosecutor, wrote the following observations on this point: “[...] the consultant [Stefanoni] also did a statistical calculation with the purpose of determining the probability that the profile could belong to someone other than the victim.

The calculation of the Random Match Probability came to 1 chance in 300 million billion. This value computed in this manner makes it possible to attribute the analyzed trace with absolute certainty to exactly one person, which the consultant holds to be the victim Meredith Kercher.” (Page 11 of the above-cited report) (The Nencini report, page 230).

There wasn’t enough DNA for a second test, but this shouldn’t matter because Meredith’s profile came out clean on a single amplification. Replication is a necessity when you have a dirty uncertain sequence like Knox’s DNA profile on the knife that was discovered by Major Berti and Captain Barni in 2013

The most important thing is there no evidence of contamination in or outside the laboratory. Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA. This means laboratory contamination can be ruled out.

Judge Micheli ruled out contamination during the collection phase because the knife was sequestered from Sollecito’s apartment on Corso Garibaldi by a different police team to the one that collected evidence from the cottage on Via della Pergola on the same day.

3. Some Conclusions

The most embarrassing schoolboy error Judge Marasca made was to assume the absence of DNA evidence of Amanda Knox inside Meredith’s room is evidence of her absence. Every law student knows that absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.

Furthermore, Amanda Knox admitted in her book she had been in Meredith’s room to take photographs - which just highlights the fact you don’t necessarily leave any DNA samples behind when you’ve been in a room.

Like the defence experts, Judge Marasca had no trouble accepting the attribution of Y haplotype to Rudy Guede in the LCN DNA sample that was found on the vaginal swab. However, he objected to the attribution of the Y haplotype to Raffaele Sollecito in the DNA sample that was found on Meredith’s bra clasp.

It seems replication is only required if you’re white. As we’ve seen in this case time and time again, the burden of proof is raised when it comes to the two white people and lowered when it comes to the black man.

Judge Marasca’s claim there were multiple attackers, but Knox and Sollecito couldn’t have materially participated in Meredith’s because there was a lack of biological traces attributable to them makes absolutely no sense because there was no DNA of anyone else in Meredith’s room.

Perhaps, we shouldn’t be surprised his illogical and contradictory reasoning because most of his Supreme Court’s report makes no sense. You’d be forgiven for thinking as a great many have that he gave into intense pressure to acquit Knox and Sollecito and that he was not motivated by any desire to see justice served.

Posted by The Machine on 04/27/20 at 11:11 PM in

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Great read. I think we might be able to nail how the CSI Effect camel got its nose under the tent.

Bongiorno and Maori wrote very long and elaborate appeal documents and the longest, at hundreds of pages, ended up with the Marasca court.

They went to some lengths to restrict those documents, but the trial and appeal prosecutions did get to see them finally.

Bongiorno and Maori had tossed in every possible conspiracy theory and had demonized many of the investigators and prosecutors. Lurid stuff.

We’ve heard that much of the nonsense Marasca and Bruno wrote can also be found in that Bongiorno document.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/28/20 at 09:03 PM | #

There is of course the theory in Italian legal circles that Marasca and Bruno self-sabotaged.

That they knowingly set out to write a report which would signal “We’ve been leaned on here”.

Three telling things happened at the time of the announcement of the verdict on 27 March 2015 which seem to point to this.

(1) The verdict was scheduled to be read out at a specific time and the judges were robed up, when things were put on hold at the last moment for several hours; there was never any explanation why.

(2) Bongiorno was visibly shocked at the verdict, seemingly indicating that “this is a bridge too far” and more than she had angled for despite her hardline appeal document, and that she knew the verdict would never pass the smell test (which it never has in Italy).

(3) The Marasca/Bruno court did not refer the appeal back down to the Nencini appeal court, an illegal move which outdid even Hellman for blatancy - actually, good grounds for the President of Italy to be petitioned to annul the Marasca/Bruno outcome.

Here is one explanation entertained in Italian legal circles that I favor, suggesting two kinds of pressure on Marasca/Bruno.

(1) Mafia-network pressure we have posts on involving RS, his uncle Rocco, and possibly Bongiorno and Dalla Vedova (who both do mafia defense work). Marasca and Bruno are both political appointees from Naples who have always had black-ish clouds over them. 

(2) Obama/Renzi administrations pressure engineered by politically-appointed underlings concerned about an extradition fight over Knox proceeding at the same time as the run-up to the next elections (Obama was not running again but his underlings would wish his legacy to be sustained from 2017).

So the six months Bruno took to write the report would have been required to figure out how to ridicule the science and the evidence (as the Machine describes) and the lower courts, while still leaving black clouds over RS and AK. Hey presto!

Unfortunately too much of the UK and US media (notorious for mostly reporting only selected fractions of the case, ever since 2007) took the ridiculing seriously, while never reporting the black clouds that the Supreme Court left over RS and AK.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/29/20 at 08:55 AM | #

There are a number of red flags that indicate there was outside interference: (1) the decision to remove Judge Sergio Matteini Chiari, an experienced trial judge, and replace him with Hellmann, an inexperienced trial judge (2) Hellmann repeatedly violating the Italian Criminal Procedure Code in order to acquit Knox and Sollecito (3) Conti and Vecchiotti refusing to test sample 36-i and misleading the appeal court (4) the US Department of State refusing to release 11 case-related documents (5) a US official thanking the Italian legal system for acquitting Amanda Knox in the media and (6) Judge Marasca’s contradictory and illogical reasoning in his Supreme Court report.

Posted by The Machine on 04/29/20 at 01:54 PM | #

OK, so we’ve got 4 experts saying Raf’s DNA is on the bra clasp: Balding, Novelli, Torricelli and Intrini. All four experts agree. Then about Raf’s kitchen knife, there’s no debate that Meredith’s DNA was found on that.

Those 2 facts alone seem to be a slam dunk case that Raf was involved in the murder. So of course the bra clasp DNA is thrown out of evidence as doubtful, yet 4 experts agree it is Raf’s DNA on clasp. Why weren’t they listened to?

Look at it objectively. For instance, set aside names and personalities. Say that a woman is killed with a knife and later a knife at a man’s house across town is found without doubt to have the woman’s DNA imbedded in it. Say also that the bra removed from her body during the sexually oriented attack does also indisputably have that same man’s DNA on it. What to think?

Now bring the case closer to home. The man is known to visit the house where the dead woman is found. In fact, he knows her somewhat and is dating her friend. He is no stranger to the home she lives in. 

I agree that the judges are now addicted to DNA evidence. They along with juries now think DNA proof of some kind is absolutely necessary to convict a killer. But Knox could have worn gloves or wiped away much of her DNA as we know there was a clean up.

DNA and fingerprint evidence have trumped other equally vital evidence. It’s the trend to fall in love with science.

DNA is like icing on the cake but even without icing there may still be a cake.

_______ OFf topic:

Today 4/30/20

The Sun runs a story that Amanda Knox on her crime podcast is thinking of interviewing Carol Baskin. Knox is limelight seeking again, this time saying Carol Baskin may not have had any part in her husband’s disappearance which occurred 20 years ago.

Baskin is the woman on Netflix show about Joe Exotic and his zoo of tigers in Florida.

Baskin runs Big Cat Rescue and Joe Exotic was jailed for 22 years? iirc for supposedly putting out a contract on Baskin’s life. He hates her.

They live in perpetual enmity with each other about the big cat controversy. Both are wildlife fanatics but with conflicting views.

Their story is told on Netflix. Personally, the drama showcases persons whose morals are so disgusting to me that it destroys even the beauty of the work they do for beautiful tigers and lions, wonderful creatures.

Carole Baskin refused when her hubby went missing to take a polygraph on advice of attorney. One lawyer says he thinks her missing husband (no body ever found) was strangled and thrown out from an airplane into the Gulf of Mexico.

So Knox is on the hunt for a high profile story to get herself noticed since Covid19 ran her out of center stage headlines.

Now she’s chasing the Joe Exotic Tiger King story with its bizarre twists. I have no clue if Baskin did anything to her husband.

But you know Knox: nobody is guilty of murder in her book, especially herself.

Posted by Hopeful on 04/30/20 at 03:49 PM | #

Hi Hopeful,

Amanda Knox supports the West Memphis Three, Brendan Dassey, Jens Soring, Ryan Ferguson and Rodney Reed. It’s her default position to support anyone convicted of murder. Of course, she couldn’t care less about any of these people. She just uses their cases to stay in the limelight and make sure she keeps getting paid to speak about alleged miscarriage of justice. She also wants to promote the idea that people are wrongfully convicted of murder all the time.

Posted by The Machine on 04/30/20 at 05:41 PM | #

Exactly. Look at the people Knox supports and you’ll see where her heart is. The mention of this gallery of rogues makes me shudder. So well put: “her default position” (great term) is always to support convicted murderers—to keep her speaking options open to discuss them for pay.

@Peter Quennell: thank you for info that oxygen may help migraines. One of my close relatives needs that info.  😊 All this corona virus news was getting me down but today YouTube worship music changed that. Heard my old faves like Amy Grant singing “El Shaddai”, “Great is the Lord”, “Thy Word is a Lamp To my Feet”, Michael W. Smith with Agnus Dei Hallelujah and blind Bocelli singing “The Lord’s Prayer” with massive choirs. Vinesong and Maranatha Singers with Psalm 5. The pandemic fear disappears in contrast.

Posted by Hopeful on 05/02/20 at 11:28 AM | #

Off topic but I’d like to ask about the bathmat story.

In her book she says “It wasn’t until I got out of the shower that I noticed a reddish-brown splotch about the size of an orange on the bathmat.”

That’s all she says about the bathmat. 

However, here is what she said in her testimony:
Amanda Knox Trial Testimony—Friday, June 12 2009

Then when I got out of the shower, I saw that I had forgotten my towel, so I wanted to use the bathmat to get to my room, and that’s when I saw the bloody stain that was on the bathmat. And I thought “Hm, strange.” Maybe someone had a problem with menstruation that didn’t get cleaned up right away. I used the mat to kind of hop over to my room and into my room, I took my towel, and I used the mat to get back to the bathroom because I thought well, by now…then I put the mat back where it was supposed to go, then I dried myself, put my earrings back, brushed my teeth, then I went back into my room to put on new clothes.

So she used the bathmat with a bloody stain to hop to her bedroom. Then she got a towell from her room and then she used the bloodied bathmat to go back to the bathroom and once there she put the bloodied bathmat back.

If she’d used the bathmat to get to her bedroom then she would surely dry herself off and put some clothes on before taking the less important bathmat back to the bathroom.  Because what would be the point of taking the bathmat back to the bathroom before drying herself off?

So she wants us to believe that whilst she dried herself off and put some clothes on the bloodied bathmat was looking at her.  And it’s ridiculous that she would use it to hop back to the bathroom because once in her bedroom she would dry her feet. So the logical thing to do would be to pick up the bloodied bathmat back to the bathroom.

Even if she did dry herself off in the bathroom she dried herself, put her earrings back, brushed her teeth, all the while the bloodied bathmat was in the same room.

She isn’t blind.  Nobody could possibly be so dumb for it not to occur to her to not be concerned.

No wonder she altered it for her book!


Posted by DavidB on 05/07/20 at 12:06 PM | #

Hi David,

Judge Paolo Micheli didn’t believe Amanda Knox’s account of what happened at the cottage on Via della Pergola on 2 November 2007 and noted that she was “mucking about in the house and taking a shower with all that blood [from the murder] around”.

According to the forensic experts’ report, the tap of the wash basin was “notably stained”.

This report by Nick Squires sheds light on just how much blood there actually was in the bathroom:

Miss Romanelli told the court how Miss Knox had telephoned her on the morning after the murder – before Meredith’s body had been found – to say that she had just taken a shower and that she had noticed blood stains in the bathroom.

Miss Romanelli was away from the cottage at the time, having spent the night with her boyfriend.

“She told me ‘It’s very odd. I’ve just come back to the house and the door is open. I had a shower but there’s blood everywhere. I’m going to get Raff. Meredith is nowhere to be seen. Oh God, maybe something’s happened to her, something tragic.’”

It struck Miss Romanelli as strange that Miss Knox would choose to take a shower when the bathroom was spattered with blood.

Police forensic experts later found 13 traces of blood in the bathroom, including a 10-inch-long smear on the floor and numerous droplets.

“I thought it was odd that she’d had a shower when there was blood all over the place,” she told chief prosecutor Giuliano Mignini during cross-examination. “I really don’t think that’s normal.” (The Daily Telegraph, 8 February, 2009).

Posted by The Machine on 05/07/20 at 01:14 PM | #

“I had a shower but there’s blood everywhere”.
No wonder she left that out of her book!

Posted by DavidB on 05/07/20 at 02:37 PM | #

The bathmat double shuffle first got a mention in Knox’s interview with Mignini, under caution and with her legal representatives present, on the 17th December.

By then her legal representatives had received notice that the forensic people were going back to the cottage the next day, the 18th, to find and collect the bra clasp, and to apply luminol to the floors. The significance of luminol would, of course, have been explained to her in a confidential lawyer/client meeting beforehand.

So she had ample opportunity to think up a story to explain the removal of blood traces she knew had occurred and any incriminating foot marks that could be attributable to her.

Remember, it was Knox and her lawyers who requested the interview with Mignini.

DavidB is of course right. The double shuffle story is highly improbable and smacks of an attempt to explain away what she knew, or guessed, the luminol would reveal.

As usual she overdid the cleverness of the explanation which does not explain how the shuffle managed to miss Guede’s visible left shoe prints, nor would it explain his luminol revealed prints extending in a line from the visible to the front door.

Posted by James Raper on 05/08/20 at 04:08 AM | #

I’ve decided to learn Italian during the lockdown. I’ve just had a quick look at Andrea Vogt’s BBC documentary and heard Manuela Comodi saying the main evidence was mixed blood. She specifically refers to “sangue misto” which is mixed blood.

The mixed blood evidence is introduced at 27 minutes and 40 seconds of the documentary.

Manuela Comodi speaks about the mixed-blood evidence at 28 minutes and 10 seconds of the documentary.

Posted by The Machine on 05/08/20 at 01:44 PM | #

Professor Balding made it quite clear when he was interviewed for Andrea Vogt’s BBC documentary that he doesn’t think there was environmental contamination or tertiary transfer via the forensic investigators:

“When you just look at the evidence by eye, you can see very strongly all of Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA types are there and that can’t be explained by any kind of just environmental contamination and I calculate how likely is the evidence under the prosecution’s assertion that the DNA is there from Raffaele Sollecito and again how likely it is without him being present and the former is much greater than the latter, so that’s why I say it’s extremely strong evidence.”

“What I can say is that contamination of DNA from passers-by is not an issue. I have that taken that into account and the chance of it matching Sollecito’s DNA is extremely unlikely.” (Professor David Balding).

Posted by The Machine on 05/09/20 at 04:32 AM | #

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Or to next entry Does This Knox DNA Evidence Add To The Proofs She Was Part Of The Pack Attack?

Or to previous entry Another Deep Dive Into The Evidence: Maybe Guede’s Shoeprints Have Not Finished Talking